Happy New Year!!!
I wasn’t quite sure what to write about in the January issue of the Chronicle, so I thought I’d reminisce a bit about hunting seasons past.
My interest in deer hunting began in the mid to late sixties as a teenager (a late start for a lot of folks). The hunting culture seemed quite a bit different back then.
Deer season was only one week long when I started hunting. The first day of the season came in on Monday and the last day was on Saturday. I always liked the season beginning on Monday because it gave you the weekend to get your hunting gear ready and heightened the anticipation of tagging that elusive “10 pointer”!
Only one deer could be harvested per year. “Doe day” was on Monday the first day of the season, so if you tagged a doe on Monday you were done for the year.
For a kid that had to go to school it meant that you had only two days to hunt. Monday, when you were allowed to be absent from school, and the last day on Saturday. That being the case any deer you could tag was a big deal. Even if it was ”just an ole doe”.
At school, much of the male population would be absent. Many businesses would close their doors for the first day and some even longer.
Rockingham and surrounding counties were premier deer hunting areas in the state of Virginia. Check out the hunting forecasts in some old Field & Stream or Outdoor Life magazines if you find that hard to believe.
Because the season was condensed to one week, there was a lot of concentrated hunting activity. The weekend before deer season came in, droves of trucks and campers would flood the area.
Hunters from Maryland, Pennsylvania, and other surrounding states would set-up camp anywhere they could find a place to pull off on National Forest land. Many established camps would appear year after year at the same location. A few camp memorials can be seen even today.
I remember hunting in Lairs Run back when the road was open to vehicles, and seeing campsites anywhere there was room to set up a tent or camper. Believe it or not we drove our cars over the rough road to get to our favorite hunting site.
There was much excitement and anticipation in the air. I remember you had to get in the woods well before daylight in order to avoid the line of traffic on Rt. 259 between Broadway and the West Virginia line. From high on the mountain, while walking in to our stands, we could see a solid line of taillights headed to hunting sites unknown.
At the end of the day hunters would gather at local checking stations to observe the day’s kill. There was no online or by-phone game check like it is today.
The parking lot at Macs Superette and along Rt 259 would be full of pick-up trucks with a crowd of camouflaged hunters congregated to be amazed at the big racked bucks and make comments about the “downsized” versions.
Times have certainly changed. I don’t see the lines of traffic or crowded checking stations anymore. National Forest lands are pretty much deserted. I hope the hunting tradition continues. It’s an important part of our local culture.